IKEA’s secret language and other everyday codes for casual cyptologists

February 27, 2018

What do the Vikings, Disneyland, IKEA, an American TV drama from the 90s and budget airline EasyJet, have in common? Well, yes, they’re all known for invading foreign countries in search of riches, but they also share a noted fondness for cryptology, at least according to a very interesting piece on The Modern Rogue entitled “5 Weird Secret Codes Found in Unexpected Places.”

And “weird” is definitely the right word. Did you know that the crazy, umlaut-hogging product names in Swedish furniture megachain, IKEA, are actually part of a complex taxonomy devised by company founder, Ingvar Kamprad? Desks, chairs and swivel chairs all use male Scandinavian names, while bookcases are named after notable professors. Bedding and bed spreads are all named after plants and flowers. Bowls, wall decorations, picture frames and clocks all share their names with Swedish locations and towns. Kitchen products are, with a few exceptions, named after Swedish slang expressions – none of them rude, unfortunately.

Kamprad invented this odd naming system because his dyslexia made recognizing product names and numbers difficult, but he may have inherited his taste for secretive codes from his coast-pillaging ancestors, the Vikings. The Norsemen, when they weren’t busy setting the English on fire and taking our stuff, apparently made up and cracked codes just for giggles. In 2014, a runic code named J├Âtunvillur was finally cracked by Runologist, Jonas Nordby, but several hundred coded runes still resist our best efforts to decode them.

Would you prefer some codes from closer to home? Well how about the subversive political messages hidden in the props of 90’s TV drama, Melrose Place. Art students furnished the show with pro-abortion quilts, contraceptive bed spreads and paintings depicting houses where famous people died. Or maybe you’d like to learn the signals and codes used by employees at Disneyland and Easyjet to alert each other to problems without letting the punters know what’s up. Do you know the difference between a code 25 and a code 70? Because one describes a lost child and the other describes a fire. Best not to mix those up.

You can read about these codes in more detail at The Modern Rogue.